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It’s Always Soup Season in My Soul

I have been a fan of soup my whole life. Broths and bisques, consommés and chowders, I adore them all.

And it doesn’t matter to me what time of year it is, either. I’ll eat a steaming bowl of stew in the middle of a sweltering summer and not think twice about it. I’ve often tried to order soup off the menu when I’m traveling, and waiters in steamy locales like Bali and Brazil look at me like I’m crazy. “But madame, it’s summer.”

(These are also usually the places with eight-page menus, of which only eight total items are really available to order. But I digress.)

I like to think of soup as a hug from the inside. And that’s particularly comforting during cold and flu and allergy season — not to mention a pandemic — when nobody wants to hug you from the outside.

One of my favorites is Chinese wonton soup. It’s definitely the special occasion version of chicken noodle soup, and I always assumed it would be complicated to make. After all, I’ve watched my fair share of grandmothers all across China’s vast land folding those tiny dumplings with the speed of light, and I figured it would take a lifetime of practice to master.

Turns out, it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be, particularly if you’re willing to take an attitude of “we’re going to chew them up anyway so they don’t have to be absolutely perfect every time” toward dumpling folding.

It’s actually a soothing process of rhythm and repetition, much like eating bite after comforting bite of soup itself.

So pull up some peaceful Chinese music on Spotify (I like ), get your filling ready, and prepare for dumpling-folding zen followed by soul-satisfying soup. And perhaps an equally satisfying post-soup nap.

This week’s subscriber exclusives: The pork dumplings you make for this week’s wonton soup can also be boiled, deep fried, baked, or air fried and served without the broth. And when you expand your dumpling-eating options, you should also learn some new and expanded options for your dumpling fillings.

Subscribers receive recipes for Chinese Chicken Dumplings, Shrimp Dumplings, and Vegetable Dumplings, along with tips for preparing them other ways and for freezing them so you can make a big batch and enjoy them in a matter of minutes anytime you like.

Chinese Wonton Soup

Some people like to boil their dumplings separately before adding them to the broth in order to maintain the soup’s clarity. I’m all for cutting down on time and dishes, so I boil my dumplings directly in the broth. If you’ve prepared your dumplings in advance and frozen them, then add them to the broth straight from the freezer. No need to defrost! This technique also helps your dumplings hold their shape in the soup.

The folding technique in this recipe creates what are called gao, or crescent-shaped dumplings. You want to avoid making bao, or purse-shaped dumplings, for wonton soup, because the thick bunch of dough at the top will not cook all the way through.

Dumplings:
1 pound (16 oz.) ground pork
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
2 green onions, minced
1 package wonton wrappers (approximately 50 pieces)
Broth:
6 cups (48 oz.) chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, diced or minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
sliced green onions

In a large bowl, combine ground pork, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and green onions. Use your hands to combine the mixture thoroughly, mixing until it forms a thick, chunky paste.

Set up your dumpling folding station on a large, clean work surface. Prepare a small bowl of lukewarm water, which you’ll use to moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper to seal them shut.

Note: Wonton wrappers will dry out quickly and become brittle, so begin with a small number and work your way up to a dozen or so at a time when you’re comfortable with the folding technique.

Place approximately one teaspoon of the pork filling in the center of a dumpling wrapper. Fold in half, corner to corner, to make a triangle, using a small amount of water on your fingertip to moisten the inside edges and seal them shut. Bring the two corners along the longest edge together, then moisten your finger again to seal one corner on top of the other to create a closed bundle. Repeat with all remaining wonton wrappers and pork filling.

Cover the folded dumplings with a slightly damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out as you prepare the broth.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, combine the chicken broth, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil for the broth. Simmer for 10 minutes, then use a large fine mesh strainer to skim off the garlic and ginger that have floated to the surface, leaving you with a clear broth.

Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Gently lower the dumplings into the broth using a long-handled spoon to avoid splashing the scalding liquid. Boil for approximately four minutes or until the dumplings float to the surface.

Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve immediately. Makes six servings.

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This week’s subscriber exclusives: Receive recipes for Chinese Chicken Dumplings, Shrimp Dumplings, and Vegetable Dumplings in this week’s subscriber-only newsletter, along with tips for preparing them other ways and for freezing them so you can make a big batch and enjoy them in a matter of minutes anytime you like.

Food and folklore from my travels to over 100 countries.

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